A few years ago, someone figured out that new 3D printer technology could be used to create a rudimentary firearm, and gun parts, out of thin air and plastic, free of serial numbers and any kind of regulation.
Since then, the topic has been one of contention and has also played the role of political football as lawmakers attempted to block the distribution of the technology. Those efforts failed.
In April, a company called Defense Distributed, which introduced the tech in 2013, reached a settlement with the U.S. State Department in a federal lawsuit that allowed publishing of the 3D blueprints for the simple firearm, which took effect in June, according to this qz.com story.
On July 26, gun control advocates asked a federal court in Texas to block the decision, but the judge did not intervene.
The plans will be available for download on August 1, but that hasn’t stopped some states from trying to circumvent the court system, raising some interesting and serious First Amendment questions.
First up is one of the most anti-gun states in the union that isn’t California: New Jersey.
Defense Distributed has filed a lawsuit agains the state attorney general for attempting to block access to its website by New Jersey residents, according to this story from nj.com.
NJ Attorney General Gurbit Grewal sent a letter to DD last week saying that making the files available to New Jersey residents would be a violation of state law and threatened some kind of legal action against the company if something wasn’t done to bar NJ residents from accessing the information.
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson agreed to temporarily block users with New Jersey IP addresses from accessing the files.
Later, in an email to NJ Advance Media, Wilson said he “elected to correct your attorney general in court” and filed papers in the U.S. District Court in West Texas, the story says.
The suit also named Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer, who sent a similar letter, as a defendant.
The complaint, which you can read here, says that the letter from Grewal “takes only vague and general positions regarding nuisance and negligence law,” and that “all actions contemplated by Defense Distributed are fully protected by the First Amendment, and (Grewal’s) attempts to prevent such actions constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint and otherwise violate the United States Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution.”
DD added that the “letter constitutes an unlawful threat, in violation of Defense Distributed’s Constitutional rights” and demanded that Grewal withdraw the letter.
The company also said in the suit that its decision to temporarily restrict NJ IP addresses from accessing the information “should not be construed as an acknowledgement of the validity of your position, and Defense Distributed reserves all of its rights in this regard.”
“Defense Distributed reasonably fears that Defendant Grewal would pursue civil enforcement proceedings against Plaintiff.”
The suit contains similar language regarding the letter from Los Angeles.
According to this story from cbsnews.com, the company has also agreed to block Pennsylvania residents as well after an emergency hearing was held on Sunday in the federal court in Philadelphia.
PA officials say the state sued the company before its formal rollout of the downloadable content.
In a blog post, David Chipman, a former ATF agent who now works for the Giffords anti-gun group, said the court decision regarding 3D printed gun blueprints means that people who can’t pass a standard background check “like terrorists, convicted felons, and domestic abusers” will be able to print out a gun without a serial number. “This could have severe repercussions a decade from now if we allow weapons of this kind to multiply,” according to this story on qz.com.
The idea that—if this were a viable way for terrorists and criminals to create firearms—a law banning the blueprints would prevent them from doing so is completely laughable—just as laughable as it is to act as if the plans won’t be available in a number of ways and places online once they are posted by DD. In fact, according to this Reddit post, the files that have been released so far and ones that have been floating around online for years are readily downloadable from other sources, even for people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
When Defense Distributed first released their single-shot firearm plans in 2013, they were downloaded over 100,000 times in two days. Those plans, and others like it, have been readily available on the Dark Web ever since.
Wilson, a self-described crypto anarchist, first released plans for “The Liberator”, a single-shot pistol which had a metal component that made it compliant with a U.S. gun detection law, in 2013. Soon after, the government said the enterprise was illegal, a position that was recently reversed with the recent court decision.
New Jersey lawmakers said they will simply pass legislation making 3D-printed firearms illegal, according to the nj.com story.